Similar is not the same

It’s really hard to end up at the same place if you only have similar destinations in mind. I remember when a new Starbucks had just opened up in the next town. My friend and I agreed to meet for coffee. I went to the Starbucks we usually went to and she went to the new one. A few minutes after we were supposed to meet we realized what had happened and resolved the issue.

This same kind of confusion happens in our relationships all the time. We have similar destinations in mind but not the same. At work, you might show up thinking that the project you are working on is the most important item. Meanwhile, your partner has a different project in mind. That gap is enough to create conflict, especially if you aren’t aware of it. You might even talk about the projects and they have enough similarities that you don’t even realize you aren’t heading in the same direction!

Meanwhile, at home, you and your spouse have different dreams for the weekend. You both are looking forward to some time resting and recharging. You’ve even told each other how excited you are about it! The problem is that for you the vision is hitting the town with some friends and for your spouse, that’s staying home, doing some projects, and watching a few shows. I may or may not be describing something I have experienced in my own marriage.

My friend and I were set to meet at the same time, at very similar places, to review the same agenda but we still found ourselves disconnected at two different Starbucks. This type of disconnection is a natural part of life and requires us to expect to clarify expectations because the gap in expectations often is the cause of our relational frustration.

How do we clarify expectations? First establishing common values, goals, and rituals goes a long way. Second, we need to improve our communication skills, including expecting to clarify expectations through listening, empathy, and pro-active communication. So what are your collective goals at work and home? How about your values? What are the rituals that bind those together? If you aren't sure start a conversation so you don't end up in different places when you want to be together. Also, check out this interesting article on why altering a holiday ritual can feel like a moral violation!

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